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In a dimly lit church basement, Internet Marketers from around the area have gathered for their IMA (Internet Marketers Anonymous) meeting. It’s an interesting crowd that is obviously not used to being around actual people very often. In fact, they have a pasty-white look to most of them–they don’t even seem to get outside of their dark offices all that frequently. I’m nervous, because I am about to tell my story to the group, to both help myself heal and maybe touch another one of these poor lost souls.
Me: Hi. My name is Frank, and I am an Internet marketer.
Them: Hi Frank!
Me: I became an Internet marketer long before I even realized I was an Internet marketer. That’s what is so insidious about it. You see, when I was selling dedicated Internet connectivity to companies for PSINet back in 1999, and then Web hosting. I just didn’t get it completely. It was just a job but I didn’t know that it would be something that would take over everything.
In fact, in 2001 I thought I was past this part of my life. I thought I had grown out of it and went on trying to do other things like sell insurance and work in a ministry. Sure, I was an Internet user but I thought I was too smart to be taken in by the deviant nature of the online space. I was cocky enough to think I had it beat. I thought I had it under control.
Then, in 2006, I took a job as a sales rep for a small search marketing agency. Sure, I was warned. I had someone even be bold enough to ask me the question “What’s the difference between a used car salesman and an SEO salesman?” I was game, so I arrogantly said, “I don’t know…surprise me!” The answer of “The used car salesman KNOWS when he is lying!” did surprise but I fought it and pushed on acting as if I wasn’t hooked.
I spent a small period of time even running my own shop and had the misfortune of seeing the dark side of the Internet space. That time cost me dearly, and subsequently I finally decided that I had hit bottom. It was then that I realized that nothing is easy with Internet marketing, and that the Internet was a dangerous place if one decided to get deep enough into its grip to choke the life and desire out of a person. That’s when I found you guys.
(Smattering of applause from the room of pale faces desperately in need of the sun’s rejuvenating rays)
Since that day in the fall of 2008, I have been on quite a journey. I have watched as the Internet has become more social, and in its wake has swallowed up more people with the promise of riches and delusions of grandeur.
I have watched as people spoke as if they held some secret formula or were a guru of sorts and take money from unsuspecting business owners.
I have watched as Internet celebrities have been raised up and have spent many hours scratching my head at what people find in these papier-Mâché icons of idle chatter.
I have also watched many people grasp the actual power of the new Internet in ways that are productive and helpful. These are the people that talk less about themselves and do more for others. They are fun to watch.
As for me? I am still addicted. I will always be an Internet marketing addict. Today, however, I know my place. That’s why I can do what I do in this still crazy space. I am the managing editor of a successful Internet marketing blog. I do business development for a social media monitoring tool that is designed to help everyone from the little guy on up the Internet totem pole. I also help businesses of all sizes try to make sense of where they fit in the Internet age by providing local Internet marketing consulting and education services.
How do I do it? Through experience. The only thing in the Internet space that has any lasting true business value is the intersection of what the Internet does and how it should be applied in each specific business need.
There are no cookie-cutter answers, whether it is in the search or social Internet arts. In fact, it’s the cookie-cutter approach that has landed many of you in this room with me. It’s the understanding that knowing buzzwords and jargon are just empty practices. It’s the realization that there are no shortcuts to success whether you are on or offline, and finally that nothing that is worth anything is ever free.
So for today, I feel like I am working well in the Internet space without it working me. For every Google+ that comes along I have the tools and the support to make sure that I don’t get swept away in the tide of rash exuberance and salesmanship that marks much of today’s Internet space. Instead, I look for where I fit the best, can do the most good, and can help the most people.
Really, the Internet isn’t much different than life itself, but don’t let it hear me say that, because it is a hungry animal that can devour any of us whole without even blinking. That is, of course, if we are vulnerable enough without being sly enough to find the way around the trouble.
So yes, I am an Internet marketer, but I choose to do it the right way now, rather than just going along with the crowd. It’s more fun that way anyway.